Thursday, April 25, 2019

Peycho Kanev writes

Russian Girls

Another hard late afternoon,
when I stop at Starbucks for coffee
after work. It is a hot summer.
The sun is settled comfortably in
the cloudless American sky and shines
irresistibly. I enter in a dark mood but it looks
as if some other sun is glowing inside.
A lot of blond girls sit on the tables. They laugh,
take selfies, text on their iPhones and talk
in that strange and beautiful language. They’re
so pretty, so perfect, so pure, exactly like morning
dew over the endless taiga.

I wondered if I could talk to them about
Stenka Razin or about Berdyaev, Shestov,
but they probably will not care for Mayakovsky,
or even less for Mandelstam.
I’m sure of that. They just want to sit and
talk about malchikov; to throw back that
fair silk of hair, making all men here to
sigh involuntarily; to cross their long naked legs
under the sun’s rays and just to live as if life
happened only in order for them to appear in
I watched how the virgin American boys glanced
at them behind the screens of their MacBooks,
how the baristas gently pronounced their names
as they call them to get the coffees – Yuliya,
Nadezhda, Svetlana, Elena, Anna, Marusya…

Oh, you virgin boys, I know what you want,
but you will never get it.
These girls, bringing so much light into your
plastic lives, are from another world and
for other men. Don’t even dream about them,
otherwise you will go mad of lust and

As for me, I took my coffee and went outside,
and I once again looked at them through the window,
and I smiled, for there was still such beauty
in this ugly world.

 Image result for james bond pierce brosnan girls paintings


  1. A "malchikov" is a boy, but Stenka Razin was a Cossack rebel/pirate whose revolted against the tsar (1667-1671) established him as an anti-establishment folk hero associated with freedom, social justice, and heroic and adventurous manhood. In addition to a popular folk song, in which he drowns his Persian wife to maintain his men's solidarity, Aleksandr Glazunov composed an orchestral work and Dmitri Shostakovich a choral work, about him. Nikolai Berdyaev was a dissident Russian philosopher who characterized Communism as a synthesis of Karl Marx and Stenka Razin. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recounted in "The Gulag Archipelago," he "was taken in 1922 for a midnight interrogation with [the head of the Soviet secret police Felix] Dzerjinsky; [Politburo chairman Lev] Kamenev was also there.... But Berdyaev did not humiliate himself, he did not beg, he firmly professed the moral and religious principles by virtue of which he did not adhere to the party in power; and not only did they judge that there was no point in putting him on trial, but he was freed." However, he was exiled with 160 other intellectuals in 1922 and died in France in 1948. Lev Shestov was another philosopher who had fled Russia and died in French exile; he wrote, "we need to think that only one assertion has or can have any objective reality: that nothing on earth is impossible. Every time someone wants to force us to admit that there are other, more limited and limiting truths, we must resist with every means we can lay hands on."

  2. Before the Russian Revolution Vladimir Mayakovsky was a prominent Fururist poet, playwright, artist, actor, and propagandist. Though Stalin praised him as "the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch," his increasing criticism (posing as satire) of Soviet censorship and involvement in the arts led to his suicide in 1930. In his 1917 Futurist manifesto "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste" he claimed "The past is too tight. The Academy and [Aleksandr] Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics" and ordered that "the poets' rights be revered:
    To enlarge the scope of the poet’s vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words (Word-novelty).
    To feel an insurmountable hatred for the language existing before their time.
    To push with horror off their proud brow the Wreath of cheap fame that You have made from bathhouse switches.
    To stand on the rock of the word “we” amidst the sea of boos and outrage.
    And if for the time being the filthy stigmas of your 'common sense' and 'good taste' are still present in our lines, these same lines for the first time already glimmer with the Summer Lightning of the New Coming Beauty of the Self-sufficient (self-centered) Word." He used the middle part of an unpublished poem as the text of his suicide note:
    Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
    The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
    I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
    I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
    And, as they say, the incident is closed.
    Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
    Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
    To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
    Behold what quiet settles on the world.
    Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
    In hours like these, one rises to address
    The ages, history, and all creation.

    Similarly Osip Mandelstam began as a supporter of the Bolsheviks but became disenchanted with their control over literature. He was repeatedly arrested, tortured, exiled internally, and sent to the Gulag system of work camps and prisons, where he died in 1938.

    Yet to die. Unalone still.
    For now your pauper-friend is with you.
    Together you delight in the grandeur of the plains,
    And the dark, the cold, the storms of snow.

    Live quiet and consoled
    In gaudy poverty, in powerful destitution.
    Blessed are those days and nights.
    The work of this sweet voice is without sin.

    Misery is he whom, like a shadow,
    A dog’s barking frightens, the wind cuts down.
    Poor is he who, half-alive himself
    Begs his shade for pittance.


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